News and discussions about overcrowding

Mooring nuisances are back on the agenda in built-up areas and press attention has been deflected from Noel Road to Treaty Street. What would happen if every boat converted to electricity and if every boater lived in slience? The residents on dry land would be much happier but problems would persist for boaters because they are running out of space. Our attentions are now turning towards the canal capacity.

This article appeared in the Camden New Journal and in the Islington Tribune on 30th and 31st October. This letter was published in the Camden New Journal and in the Islington Tribune on 6th and 7th November

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Call for curbs on canal 'cruisers' in King's Cross

Published: 31 October, 2014

A DRAMATIC increase in the number of people living on boats on Camden's waterways has led to protests from neighbours on dry land who say they are being "choked with diesel and wood fumes".

Disgruntled residents in King's Cross have urged the Canal and River Trust (CRT), who manage the waterways, to limit the number of boats moored outside their homes along the Grand Union Towpath.

Boaters are allowed to spend up to two weeks tied-up at spots along the canal and some spend all year moving around London to avoid paying for a permanent mooring. The number of these so-called "continuous cruisers" in the capital has increased from 638 in 2012, to 1,052 in March this year, according to the CRT.

It is thought the number of people drawn to the canals has risen, at least in part, as property prices continue to spiral and the prospect of home ownership becomes increasingly unattainable for many.

But Roger Squires, secretary of the London branch of the Inland Waterways Association and a member of the St Pancras Cruising Club, said he has little sympathy with this argument and believes many exploit the rules and overstay the 14-day limit.

He said: "My belief is that these people are really taking advantage of a situation because CRT seems unable to actually enforce its own rules."

Residents of Treaty Street have asked CRT to limit the number of boats to single file between York Way and Caledonian Road. A petition, presented at a meeting at the London Canal Museum last Wednesday, read: "We and our children are being choked with diesel and wood fumes, unable to open our windows and have to put up with engine noise at all times of the day and night."

But Yan Yates, who has lived on the canal for six years, said he has a good relationship with his neighbours. He said many were driven to boats by low wages and high rents.

"The only other option is to either squat of live back home with your mum and dad, or you invest in something like canal cruising," he added.

"But why has that happened? It's not an easy life. You get seven or eight months when it's cold and it's not the easiest."

Mr Yates said he had noticed a sharp increase in the number of boats "continuously cruising" but believes the onus is on the CRT to provide extra mooring spots and enforce their own rules, which include an 8pm curfew on generator use.

"It's becoming overcrowded and they're not regulating it. But, is it the people's fault for trying to find a cheaper way to live that's sustainable or is it CRT's fault for not providing any more moorings.

"I've been on the canals for six years now and I think there's three or four incidents where someone's run their generator at 9pm, but that is the minority. The majority run it during the day for an hour to charge their batteries.

"The complaints will mainly come from fires and the smoke from chimneys. But the majority of new boats have gas-powered radiators and the only noise we do make is to occasionally run our engines for an hour."

A Canal & River Trust spokesman said: "We are working with everyone involved to try and find the best solution. We're installing mooring rings in Camden and in Hackney to create more places for boaters to stop, for example, and are looking at the suitability of triple mooring in this area and have recently increased the size of our enforcement team."

There are too many stationary boats on the canal. It's a space war, not a class war on overcrowded canal

Published: 6/7 November, 2014

. COMPETITION for space on the Regent's Canal is now fiercer than ever.

We were reminded of this in your article (Call for action over 'cruisers', October 30) that reported on renewed conflicts between boaters and their neighbours on dry land.

The main cause of complaints from neighbours was noise and smoke pollution but there are even bigger problems ahead with space constraints.

There are ways of controlling noise and smoke, through peer pressure and use of cleaner fuels, but there are no signs yet that the steady migration of boats into London is slowing down.

The space problem must have reached tipping point if the navigation authority is going to "look at" triple mooring. Has the world gone mad? Is the canal a corridor or a dead end?

The canal often suffers from a lack of movement on the water and during the day it is starting to feel like a deserted suburb.

There are too many stationary boats and too few moving boats. We need more visiting boats, more trading boats (selling affordable snacks and goods) and, above all, more freight traffic.

Moving boats need space to manoeuvre at locks and bridges and they need spaces along the towpath where they can pause, so there is a finite limit to the number of potential mooring slots.

We could reach that limit long before the demand falls off and sooner or later the Canal and River Trust will need to think about rationing licences in London.

We will be discussing canal capacity at the next Friends' meeting on November 26.

All stakeholders are welcome including wildlife campaigners as well as boaters and other users.

This is a space war not a class war and any disputes between seemingly privileged home owners and nomadic boaters are a convenient distraction from a wider problem that the authorities are struggling to resolve.

My biggest fear is that if boating communities cannot police themselves then the towpath will one day fall prey to market forces and some of the people who add most value to the canal will be priced off the territory they care for.

The canal could become as sterile as many other parts of central London.


Chair, Friends of Regent's Canal